The Third Department, reversing Supreme Court, in a full-fledged opinion by Justice Clark, in a matter of first impression, determined that records kept by the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) regarding incidents in prisons were not personnel records pursuant to Civil Rights Law 50-a. Therefore petitioner was entitled to unredacted copies pursuant to his Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request:
… [U]nusual incident reports, use of force reports and misbehavior reports have distinct characteristics. However, they share several important commonalities. To begin with, each category of report is, at its core, a written memorialization of an event that occurred at a DOCCS facility. Additionally, and significantly, each type of report is authored, as a mandatory component of their job duties, by staff members with knowledge of the underlying event. The reports do not arise out of inmate allegations or grievances … . Nor are they written documentation of disciplinary proceedings or disciplinary action taken against a correction officer … . Given their factual nature and that each is written by a witness or witnesses with knowledge of the underlying facility event, we find unusual incident reports, use of force reports and misbehavior reports to be more akin to arrest reports, stop reports, summonses, accident reports and body-worn camera footage, none of which is quintessentially “personnel records” … . * * *
… [W]hile it is relevant that unusual incident reports and use of force reports may be used in employee performance evaluations, that factor alone is not determinative. Otherwise, any employee work product or record documenting an employee’s on-duty actions would classify as a personnel record with the justification that it could be used to evaluate work performance and would, thus, result in a situation in which the exception swallows the rule … .
… [W]ith regard to the legislative objective of Civil Rights Law § 50-a, respondents have not demonstrated a “substantial and realistic potential” for the unredacted reports to be used against the officers in a harassing or abusive manner … . Matter of Prisoners’ Legal Servs. of N.Y. v New York State Dept. of Corr. & Community Supervision, 2019 NY Slip Op 03421, Third Dept 5-2-19